Freezing Vibration is the follow-up to Freezing, a 2011 fanservice anime which suffered from lacking any apparent target audience. Taking a conventional premise – a primarily female-populated high school spiced up with frequent magically-augmented battles – the first season failed to provide any kind of interesting plot, wasting its time on progressively tiresome hierarchical disputes. Think the kind of anime where every confrontation is preceded and interrupted by repeated protests about the impossibility of what you’re seeing; telling us “a level three can’t possibly beat a level five” – or whatever – doesn’t suddenly make seeing that happen interesting.
Equally, Freezing felt inadequate as fanservice –or at least, as a masturbatory aid for otaku – largely because those aforementioned magical powers included the ability for its characters to regenerate their clothing, which seems counter-productive in a series constructed on the time-honoured trope of staging battles where buxom women’s clothing is sliced in two. Yes, it was competently animated, but its unimaginative character designs – two of its primary cast are big-breasted blonde women who are members of ancient aristocratic families – clumsy dialogue and barely-there plot contributed to a series that seemed to be for no-one. At least if it had succeeded as fanservice, there would have been a point to it all (even if ‘animated softcore porn’ isn’t that sharp of a point).
Thankfully, Freezing Vibration is better than Freezing, if still leagues short of a masterpiece. Abandoning any pretence of making inter-school squabbles about who ranks where interesting, the series instead introduces corporate intrigue. There’s an “E-Pandora” program that allows ordinary girls to become Pandoras – essentially kick-ass magical warrior ladies – that fleshes out the first half of the season with a host of new characters (and all the obligatory bathing scenes you’d expect from a series of this sort) and allows the second season to develop an actual substantial storyline. There’s revolution, betrayal, sacrifice and the like, all executed with a tone (and content) heavily indebted to the second half of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series. (Obviously, it’s never on the same level as Evangelion, but a shade of Eva is still an order of magnitude better than anything screened in the first season).
Unlike season one, I can imagine an enthusiastic audience for this sort of thing, though I wouldn’t quite count myself among their ranks. There’s enough unnecessary nudity to satisfy audiences looking for that kind of thing (particularly in the OVAs included on the Blu-Ray release, which are borderline pornography), but there’s also a robust storyline and real character arcs. That’s not to say Freezing Vibration is anything amazing; there’s still plenty of groan-worthy dialogue, and a mid-season subplot centring on a history of sexual violence is well-intentioned but really clumsily handled. But there’s a sense of purpose and direction to Vibration that its predecessor lacked, and enough potential for a third season – if one is ever produced – to build upon.